Friday, August 31, 2007

Pampang 2: The History of Pampang Village

Pampang, which in the Indonesian language means "expansive," is populated mostly by people known as Kenyah Dayaks, among the largest Dayak groups in Kalimantan. Like some other Dayaks, many Kenyah refer to themselves as "people of tradition" (masyarakat adat). However Dayak traditions, like Dayak languages, vary widely across the island. Kenyah are further divided in subgroups that speak distinct dialects and whose customs vary. These subgroups are sometimes called uma or lepo. Kenyah who live in Pampang today include representatives of several different lepo. Thus, unlike the situation in more remote Kenyah villages where nearly everyone may speak the same dialect, two neighbors living in Pampang may speak quite differently from one another. The Kenyah practice a hereditary ranking system that includes aristocrats (paren) who traditionally comprised the villages' political leadership, various types of commoners (panyin), and, formerly, slaves (ula). At the same time, traditional patterns of leadership are gradually changing as villages become increasingly incorporated in state administrative structures, and the role of church leaders in many communities is increasing in importance (Conley 1976:187-201). The relative affluence of some families who participate in new wage-earning opportunities has also affected the balance of power. Thus it is not surprising that questions of cultural identity and the effects on tourism many dimensions of local community life loom large in Pampang.
The first Kenyan settlers arrived in Pampang in the early 1970s following an arduous journey from Long Liis, a village deep in the Apau Kayan region (Bulungan Regency) close to Indonesia's border with Sarawak, Malaysia. According to the popular account of their migration, three families set off together. Hard times upriver had led them to take the risks associated with a move. Their farms were failing, they could not afford many basic foodstuffs at astronomically inflated upriver prices, and they had virtually no access to health care or education for their children. They journeyed slowly, sometimes stopping to farm along the way. Eventually they reached Pampang, where they were later joined by other Kenyan who were finding it difficult to survive in their remote communities as well. The trek to Pampang may take even present-day migrants more than a month, down muddy paths cut through the rainforest and over dangerous river rapids. With time, the village population has grown to about 700 inhabitants. In addition to Kenyan, village residents include a handful of Dayaks from other subgroups and even a few non-Dayaks who have married locals.
Compared to a home in the Apau Kayan, Pampang is strategically located-it lies fewer than 30 kilometers north of the provincial capital, Samarinda. Nevertheless, even the trip to Pampang from Samarinda requires some effort. After turning left off the main road out of Samarinda at kilometer 28, travelers must take a much smaller byway for about five kilometers, traveling up and down steep hills where the road floods in patches. Arriving at Pampang's "gate," they must push on for a final muddy kilometer or two on a path that is in such poor repair as to be often impassible for motor vehicles.
Eager to improve their lot, a little more than a decade ago Pampang's leaders, including one of the original settlers who is now its traditional law chief (kepala adat), began working with the head traditional law chief of the Kenyah people-a well-known professional in Samarinda-to expand the village's annual harvest festival (palas tahun). By acting creatively, they hoped to increase provincial officials' awareness of the village and of the challenges faced by the indigenous people who lived there. Many local administrators, including the governor and the mayor, were invited to the celebration, and to those that followed during the next few years. Taking advantage of its location near the capital, village leaders, their Samarinda-based advisors, and the provincial office of the Department of Tourism decided to begin promoting Pampang as a "culture village" (desa budaya) in 1991. The culture village was a novel concept, and Pampang remains the only one of its kind in East Kalimantan. The designation was celebrated with the erection of a heavily carved "unity column" (belawing) in the center of the village. Residents began planning their largest harvest celebration yet, to be held in 1992. Some villagers organized dances to entertain dignitaries. Others created artwork that their guests could take home to remember their visit. At that time, the path into the village off the five-- kilometer feeder road had yet to be paved. Access to Pampang was still limited to a trail cut roughly through the bush. In addition, there were no large enclosed buildings and guests would have to be entertained outdoors regardless of the weather. Even though the start of the festivities was delayed for a time while some waited to see whether asphalt could be poured on the path, the festival attracted more publicity and was better attended than in the past (Suara Kaltim 1992).
Within the year, the mayor of Samarinda declared that he had become "obsessed" with developing Pampang as a tourist object. Speaking with a reporter from a national newspaper, he compared the village to a tourist venue in Europe: "In Polendam, the Netherlands, there is an area for culture tourism that presents the traditional way of life of the Dutch hundreds of years ago, like wooden shoes, colorful shirts, hairstyles, and more. There is even an opportunity for tourists to have their picture taken as a souvenir. Now, that's what we are going to do to the people of Pampang" (Suara Pembaruan 1993). In an essay written for a local paper, the mayor suggested that, by pretending to live in economically difficult straits, the Dayaks of Pampang would actually improve their standard of living: "When one discusses the pattern of life of past times, by modern indicators, it was a life of poverty. But in portraying the cultural life of past times, the workers will be shown in `artificial poverty.' That means that the workers perform as professionals...and receive a wage appropriate to their job. It's clear that this is the place where they work, but their wages will enable them to live comfortably outside of the place that they work" (Husain 1993b:8).
Yet besides its annual harvest festival, Pampang apparently offered little of interest to visitors seeking a Dayak cultural experience. A domestic tourist in 1993 was quoted as follows: "My impression when I heard that Pampang was a culture village was that I would be exposed to a unique atmosphere, although I didn't know what the buildings, the environment, and the lifestyle would be like. But I didn't find anything like that." That newspaper report noted that although the poor condition of the road led visitors to imagine that they were entering an authentic Dayak village-that is, it felt remote-when they arrived they found that homes in Pampang were simply like those of [poor] city dwellers in Samarinda (Suara Pembaruan 1993:1). Most peculiar of all, Pampang lacked a "longhouse" (lamin). Longhouses are the traditional dwelling places of many of Kalimantan's indigenous peoples and sometimes house several hundred persons at once. The absence of a longhouse in a village that was promoted as being rich in Dayak culture seemed glaring (Dyson 1992). Responding to that criticism, a teacher in East Kalimantan's state-run university, herself a well-known Dayak activist, countered that Pampang wasn't called a culture village for its architecture. She added it is considered a culture village "because of the presence of the Dayak Kenyah tribe that maintains its customs and traditions, as in performing harvest ceremonies, the manner in which they receive guests, and by means of their dances, songs, and skill in carving" (Laden 1992:6).
Despite this flurry of interest, little changed over the next few years. A long dry season in 1994 caused a severe water shortage-the river on which Pampang's residents depended for water became dangerously low. The path to the village went unimproved. A meeting hall was built to serve as a longhouse for holding social gatherings (rather than for residence), but it deteriorated rapidly. The traditional law chief finally took his case to the public in a newspaper interview. "Why should Pampang have to bear the designation of `Culture Village' if, with the addition of that title, we, Dayak Kenyah citizens, are expected to take on a heavy burden?" he queried. "The longhouse is falling apart, the instruments and accessories here are insufficient to portray the face of the Dayak Kenyah. There aren't even any authentic Dayak clothes in this village, and it's difficult to find any examples of home industries or handicrafts. So just what is the characteristic of a culture village that is here in Pampang?" (Kaltim Post 1994c:7).
Officials' sensitivity to public criticism, coupled with the successful lobbying efforts of the head traditional law chief in Samarinda, began to have an effect on Pampang's fortunes. The local government began to take a more active role in Pampang's development. Army troops were sent to widen and improve the road and to help enlarge the longhouse. The head of the provincial office of the Department of Tourism announced plans to expand Pampang through partnerships with private business. The first step, he counseled, would be to erect additional longhouses in the styles of other Dayak groups. These longhouses would enhance the "rich landscape of Pampang." The next step would be to build a hotel. Pampang, he asserted, would become a "Mini Dayak Kaltim," analogous to the "Beautiful Indonesia in Miniature Park" in Jakarta (Kaltim Post 1996a). Shortly after this announcement, the advisor to Pampang's farmers' cooperative announced intentions to step up handicraft production, including the manufacture of beaded purses, mats, and other items. Whereas the production of such items had formerly been an evening pastime for village women after they returned from their farms, it was hoped that particularly skilled individuals would devote even more of their time to crafts and that their children or others would replace them in the fields (Kaltim Post 1996b).
In 1998, under the guidance of the traditional law chief, the village's middle school principal, and other advisors in Samarinda, Pampang's residents began offering regularly scheduled dance performances. Participation in twice weekly dance practice became an integral part of students' required extracurricular activities, as did their attendance at actual performances. To encourage visitors to come to the shows, billboards were erected in Samarinda and elsewhere, including one on the spot at kilometer 28 where travelers must turn off the main road to get to Pampang. The billboard, which depicts a Kenyah woman in an elaborately beaded skirt and vest with her arms raised in dance, provides drivers with directions and details show times.

Source: Pampang culture village and international tourism in East Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo, Human Organization, Winter 2001 by Schiller, Anne

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